Grace Kelly: I'll Remember April

I can't think of a teenage jazz musician who has more visibility than young Grace Kelly, who is being touted as a prodigy of the alto. But her playing is so careful at times that it is hard to get a sense of how well she really plays her horn. Here she is left exposed on a moderately fast version of "I'll Remember April," without other front line players or clever arrangements to pick up the slack, and the results are lackluster. Her tone is sweet and lovely in the opening melody statement, but gets more and more shrill as the song progresses. These are pretty easy chord changes for soloing, with long stretches of static harmonies—and there are a hundred young saxophonists in Manhattan who could slice 'em and dice 'em until they beg for mercy. Yet Kelly lets her opening break, that moment for glory, float by with hardly a peep from her horn. Later in the chorus she fools around with a simple motif, and sometimes tosses out a fluid phrase but nothing you wouldn't hear in your typical Berklee practice room. I keep waiting for her to let loose with something special to convince me that the buzz surrounding her is more than empty hype. I'm still waiting.

May 06, 2009 · 0 comments


Richard Twardzik: I'll Remember April

Richard Twardzik would have been one of the most important jazz artists of the late 1950s and 1960s, had he lived longer. Instead he died in Paris at age 24, victim of a heroin overdose. His style was already fully developed, invigorating and iconoclastic, at the time of his death. No doubt he would have played differently had he survived, but it is hard to imagine Twardzik playing much better than he did on this 1954 session for the Pacific label. Now here comes the tritest blurb in the critic's lexicon, but I need to resort to it . . . . Twardzik was ahead of his time. It's a banality, but one struggles to find a more succinct way of describing this pianist's dramatic style. His textures, his brittle attack, his cyclonic bursts of energy, his chords thicker than a Manhattan musicians union directory . . . these all sound like the keyboard vocabulary of 1974 or 1984, not 1954. You can try to link him up with Monk or Brubeck or Tristano, and other artists of the era, but a true genealogy of his sources would probably take you to the thorny terrain of Stravinsky, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Schoenberg and other non-jazz influences. But the rhythmic excitement here is distinctly jazz-oriented -- check out how Twardzik handles trading fours at the conclusion of this track. A dynamic performance by an unheralded genius.

July 11, 2008 · 0 comments


Erroll Garner: I'll Remember April

Erroll Garner's Concert by the Sea was one of the most popular piano trio albums of the era, and was also heard widely in later years as a "Nice Price" reissue. But Garner seems to have fallen from favor in the last decade or so. His influence is all but undetectable among the younger generation of pianists. What a shame. This elfin artist possessed one of most felicitous keyboard styles in the annals of jazz, distinguished by delightful dynamic shifts, clever left hand devices and a boisterous sense of swing. This opening track from the famous live date is a fine introduction to Garner's work. He starts with one of those non sequitur piano intros, meandering mini-epics that have no apparent relation to the song they kick off -- another Garner trademark; but when he gets into a groove, he is as unstoppable as a runaway locomotive. Every once in a while, he drops a left-hand chord that explodes off the beat, a pianistic equivalent of an Art Blakey bomb. But he is just as likely to pound those chords out four to a bar. Above all, his solos capture an upbeat, lighthearted attitude that was uncharacteristic of mid-1950s jazz, but which still has its appeal today. My only gripe here is the sound quality, which is sub-par even by Eisenhower-era standards. Still, this is a classic date, and one that every jazz fan should hear.

May 10, 2008 · 0 comments


Kenny Dorham: I'll Remember April

Excepting the legendary Clifford Brown/Art Blakey collaborations recorded live at Birdland in 1954, Kenny Dorham was first in line of the many memorable Jazz Messengers trumpeters. Performing mostly alongside Hank Mobley, Horace Silver and Doug Watkins, Dorham can be heard on such Messenger classics as Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers and The Jazz Messengers at Café Bohemia Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3. This classic all-star track, however, finds Dorham trading off the melody's A and B sections with Sonny Rollins, no less, before each rattles off a blistering solo. A brief Hank Jones solo is followed by a brilliantly conceived and executed melodic turn from Roach. If there is a single imperfect Max Roach solo out there, someone please let the drummers of the world know about it!

March 06, 2008 · 0 comments


George Shearing: I'll Remember April

"The fire will dwindle into glowing ashes," goes the lyric. "For flames and love live such a little while." Depressing stuff for a love song, huh? Not that it applies to George Shearing's instrumental, which is still warm 60 years after ignition. At a listener-friendly medium tempo, Shearing reminisces of springtime past via his trademark gauzy, behind-the-beat, vibes/piano/guitar unisons, ending with one of his droll intimations of a church bell pealing amidst the English countryside. So, when next you're in the mood, gather 'round the embers, cast off those mittens and booties, and remember April. Just don't forget George Shearing.

December 04, 2007 · 0 comments


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